SEMINOLE — Residents concerned about safety and increased traffic have gone head to head with county engineers during the past three years over plans to widen 102nd Avenue N.
Pinellas County officials say the road needs to be widened because of congestion. Neighbors agree the road can be congested at rush hour, particularly at the intersection of 102nd and 113th Street, where traffic can back up as westbound drivers merge into the left lane to prepare for the narrower road west of 113th.
Now, county officials have come up with two options for the first phase of the $9.6 million project. They also have scaled back plans for the subsequent two phases.
Phase 1, expected to cost $6.2 million, involves the 1.2-mile strip from 125th Street to 113th Street. The road there is currently a two-lane undivided rural road with 12-foot lanes and grass shoulders.
Plans are to widen that portion to four lanes, divided by a median with bike lanes and sidewalks on both sides of 102nd. The plans differ in where the four-lane section would end.
One option has the four lanes ending just east of the Pinellas Trail. In the other, which county engineers say is safer, the four lanes would end just west of the trail.
The County Commission will decide which option will go forward. It's expected the decision will come in time for construction to begin in the summer of 2011.
The county no longer plans to widen the road west of Phase One.
The second phase, expected to cost $1.25 million, now consists of intersection improvements at 102nd and Antilles Drive.
The third phase, to cost $2.15 million, involves the portion of 102nd that starts at 113th and goes east to Seminole Boulevard. That section, already four lanes, has recently been resurfaced. Under the proposal, curbs, bike lanes and sidewalks would be added. There would be some minimal work done to the intersection of 102nd and Seminole Boulevard.
Neither of these phases has been scheduled.
The proposal to widen 102nd has been a controversial issue for three years among area residents who say they fear that the widening will change the character of the neighborhood and endanger walkers, joggers and others using the trail who will have to cross more lanes of traffic. They have also pointed to the area's horse community. Horses and riders, many of whom are children, must cross 102nd to get to Walsingham Horseman's Park. Making 102nd wider could endanger horses and riders, neighbors say.
"I personally don't see any reason to widen 102nd Avenue from at least Antilles to 125th," said Carol Hemmingsen, who has signed petitions and spoken to the County Commission in opposition to the widening. "There is no more growth in the area so I don't believe that there is reason to be concerned about future growth. The area is built out. The only real traffic issues we have is when Oakhurst Elementary has parents arriving and departing for their children."
The Seminole City Council agreed with Hemmingsen and other neighborhood activists who have argued against the widening. Council members last year passed a resolution asking the county to find less drastic ways of solving the traffic congestion issues along 102nd.
Anne Lindberg can be reached at (727) 893-8450 or firstname.lastname@example.org.